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FORUMS Photo Sharing & Visual Enjoyment Astronomy & Celestial 
Thread started 08 Feb 2017 (Wednesday) 14:36
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QUICK help please - leaving tomorrow

 
ekkthree
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Feb 08, 2017 14:36 |  #1

so we have a last minute trip to see the aurora in fairbanks leaving early tomorrow morning.
i've never shot night sky before, let alone the northern lights. is it worth packing the 60d and my 35/1.4 or just leave it behind and let the smartphone do its thing?
there's no intent to do anything with the images/video other than share with family when i get back, but obviously better is..... well, better.

if i take the camera, i'll take a small tripod with me. any quick and dirty tips for shooting video or images of the lightshow?
fwiw, i only have one lense for this camera and it's a sigma 35/1.4

thanks




  
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davidmtml
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Feb 08, 2017 14:52 |  #2

You absolutely want to take the 60D and 35mm. A cell phone has no chance to do the northern lights justice.

A 35mm on a aps-c camera isn't very wide, but you can just take shots that are more zoomed in, or you can try to make a panorama. Panoramas can be a little bit tricky with the northern lights since they are always changing, but I find that usually Lightroom does a pretty good job of blending them and you would never know.

If you have any chance at all to get a wider lens before the trip (maybe you can borrow from somebody), you would be glad you did. The northern lights, if they are fairly bright, don't need an extremely fast lens, and honestly you could get a decent capture with an 18-55 kit lens.




  
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Feb 08, 2017 15:20 |  #3

HA, seriously? A smartphone versus a DSLR and the Sigma 35mm f1.4? That's like saying would you rather sail across the ocean in a rubber raft or on a cruise ship. Absolutely take the DSLR and Sigma lens, the quality you'll get from that compared to your smartphone makes it no comparison.


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ekkthree
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Feb 08, 2017 16:01 |  #4

lol. yeah, i suppose i should have worded that differently.
of course a do-it-all device can't compare to a purpose built tool. but it was really a question of cost/benefit. if the setup i have isn't appropriate for the task, it's really not worth taking with me out there just to fiddle around with.

everyone else i know (that's actually bought a selection of lenses) shoots nikon, so it's pretty much the 35 or bust for me. more a question of i-have-it-so-i-might-as-well-take-it type of thing.
with the 35 on a tripod, any exposure tips?
also, altho i'm sure i'll snap a bunch of pics, i want to shoot video to capture the motion.




  
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davidmtml
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Feb 08, 2017 16:09 |  #5

ekkthree wrote in post #18268113 (external link)
lol. yeah, i suppose i should have worded that differently.
of course a do-it-all device can't compare to a purpose built tool. but it was really a question of cost/benefit. if the setup i have isn't appropriate for the task, it's really not worth taking with me out there just to fiddle around with.

everyone else i know (that's actually bought a selection of lenses) shoots nikon, so it's pretty much the 35 or bust for me. more a question of i-have-it-so-i-might-as-well-take-it type of thing.
with the 35 on a tripod, any exposure tips?
also, altho i'm sure i'll snap a bunch of pics, i want to shoot video to capture the motion.

The 35 will be nice for capturing video. The f1.4 aperture is invaluable for that. For photos, maybe try something like ISO 800, f2.8, 6-10 seconds. Adjust from there as needed.




  
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ksbal
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Post edited over 1 year ago by ksbal. (3 edits in all)
     
Feb 08, 2017 16:13 |  #6

^^^ this

But also experiment with higher iso and up to a 15 second exposure.. play with it and see what you like best - Glad you are taking the camera, guarantee you'd kick yourself if you didn't take it.

Camera's will see low aurora events much better than our eyes do, and make the trip worth it.

be prepared to have a flash light with a red gel over it, so your eyes don't have to adjust back and forth.

be prepared to be amazed at how many stars are really in the sky.

extra batteries - hand warmer thingys, wool socks etc, etc.. dress for it and stay comfy.

Sometimes it takes a bit for the light show, 2 or 3am, but totally worth it.


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ekkthree
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Feb 08, 2017 16:13 |  #7

thanks, i'll try that out.




  
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TCampbell
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Feb 09, 2017 00:23 |  #8

Sorry, I don't mean to poke fun... but this made me laugh.

Occasionally I'll show someone an astro photo that shot and people will ask what I used to capture it. I usually wink and say "Well... these iPhones are absolutely amazing. I don't even need a tripod... just point it at the sky and push the button." They quickly pick up on the idea that capturing the image is "a bit more involved".

So it is with your auroras...

You want a tripod (absolutely) with a remote shutter release OR use the self-timer to delay the triggering (otherwise the camera will probably shake a bit just from pushing the shutter button.)

When I use my 60Da, I prefer ISO 800 but I'm on a tracking mount. But as you have an f/1.4 lens (and that's pretty good) you're 2 stops faster than I am with my 14mm f/2.8 lens.

HOWEVER... at 35mm... with no tracking head you're good for roughly a 10 second shot before the stars appear to elongate due to the spin of the Earth. I'm not sure you'll get enough light in 10 seconds ... so you might try pushing the ISO up to 1600 and see how you like it better.

Focus is tricky... do not rush.

You'll switch your 60D into "live view" mode. Point it at the brightest star you can find (make sure it really is a star... do not use a planet). Temporarily set the shutter speed to 30 seconds and temporarily crank up the ISO to 6400.

Switch the lens to manual focus mode. Rotate the dial to the "infinity" focus point (which wont be correct but it should at least be close enough to see blurry stars on the viewfinder) and then carefully adjust focus to make your stars pin-point. When they are pin-point you're not done.

Now use the digital zoom in live-view mode to zoom in to 10x. Now refine the focus a 2nd time until the stars are pin-point (you'll find that your initial focus that looked good at on that tiny little 3" screen probably wasn't bang-on accurate once you zoom in.)

When you're happy with your focus... return the ISO to a more sane setting (like ISO 800 or ISO 1600), return the shutter speed to something like 10 seconds (which would be pretty good for a 35mm lens). And... being CAREFUL not to bump the focus ring... you can now re-point the camera to any point in the sky you'd like to focus.

If you have a remote shutter release, use it to trigger the shots. If you do not have a remote shutter release, put the camera into either the 2-second or 10-second delay mode and that will give the tripod time to dampen any vibration before it takes the shot.

And the most important part... don't forget to show us your results!

Clear skies & good luck!




  
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Intheswamp
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Feb 09, 2017 06:45 |  #9

ksbal wrote in post #18268126 (external link)
^^^ this

But also experiment with higher iso and up to a 15 second exposure.. play with it and see what you like best - Glad you are taking the camera, guarantee you'd kick yourself if you didn't take it.

Camera's will see low aurora events much better than our eyes do, and make the trip worth it.

be prepared to have a flash light with a red gel over it, so your eyes don't have to adjust back and forth.

be prepared to be amazed at how many stars are really in the sky.

extra batteries - hand warmer thingys, wool socks etc, etc.. dress for it and stay comfy.

Sometimes it takes a bit for the light show, 2 or 3am, but totally worth it.

All good points. I've only done a little nightsky shooting (no auroras) down here in Alabama, but it always amazes me at the incredible number of stars revealed by the long exposures. If you're short on red gels most any translucent red material placed over the flashlight lens will work. Clear red gift-wrapping, red balloons, anything you can completely cover the lens of a flashlight with...you might have to use 2-3 layers....I've even used light coats of the wife's red fingernail polish on cheap lights.


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Intheswamp
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Feb 09, 2017 06:55 |  #10

Good info, TCampbell. A few comments to add... :)

* Don't forget to lower your ISO after focusing!
* You might want to carry a small roll of scotch tape to secure your focus ring against accidental adjustment.
* Whether you tape the focus ring or not, recheck your focus a few times during the shoot.
* Shoot RAW, it will give you some exposure latitude during post processing.
* Don't get too wrapped up in and stressed over shooting the auroras that you don't enjoy being able to see them in real time.

Have fun and enjoy the show, ekkthree!


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ekkthree
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Apr 05, 2017 21:08 |  #11

oops. sorry for the late reply, but just by way of update, thank you all for the advice.
turns out it didn't really matter which camera i took because of persistent cloud cover. we went out there 3 nights and altho i did manage to see a faint green glow, it was mostly just cloudy. also that particular week in fairbanks was like the coldest since the last ice age. it was stupid cold, like -40 deg, that is not an exaggeration. it was literally -40 at 2am.
so barring some spectacular display, i wasn't about the set up outside anyway.
such is the whimsy of weather, so it is what it is. i'll try again at some point in my life and it was nice to travel with my parents again so i still count it as a success.

thanks again for all the tips. sorry i don't have any shots to share.




  
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TCampbell
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Apr 06, 2017 00:57 as a reply to  @ ekkthree's post |  #12

Sorry to hear about the clouds. Next time tell everyone you're planning to go photograph the clouds... that should guarantee clear skies. ;-)a

In astronomy, anytime someone buys new gear... it gets cloudy. I cannot explain the physics behind this phenomena... but neither can I argue agains the mountain of empirical data that demonstrates the hypothesis to be true. -?




  
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Post edited over 1 year ago by Davenn.
     
Apr 10, 2017 22:07 |  #13

ekkthree wrote in post #18320693 (external link)
oops. sorry for the late reply, but just by way of update, thank you all for the advice.
turns out it didn't really matter which camera i took because of persistent cloud cover. we went out there 3 nights and altho i did manage to see a faint green glow, it was mostly just cloudy. .


TCampbell wrote:
Sorry to hear about the clouds. Next time tell everyone you're planning to go photograph the clouds... that should guarantee clear skies

As TC said bad luck
better luck next time

Dave


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Post edited over 1 year ago by Scrumhalf.
     
Apr 10, 2017 22:20 |  #14

TCampbell wrote in post #18320812 (external link)
In astronomy, anytime someone buys new gear... it gets cloudy. I cannot explain the physics behind this phenomena... but neither can I argue agains the mountain of empirical data that demonstrates the hypothesis to be true. -?

Haha, that's true! In fact, one of the leading Astro forums is called Cloudy Nights. :)


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